Biscuits again, with new additions!

img_4939I’ve been trying to make biscuits for a while, guys. The first recipe on here was a biscuit recipe, and I’ve made a couple versions since. Still, while fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits often mask a multitude of sins, the fact has remained: my biscuits don’t rise, and they don’t have flakey layers.

No more! No more am I cursed with hockey pucks that I must slather in butter to make tasty! Instead, I‘ve got this recipe for biscuits, from the brilliant Girl Meets Dough, which lays it out for you, and let me tell you: the results are fantastic.

The things I was doing wrong: I didn’t keep the butter cold. She suggests taking super-cold butter, grating it into a bowl, and putting the butter in the freezer until right when you need it. Then, once the biscuits are all set out on the pan, you put the pan of biscuits into the freezer for 10 more minutes to get the butter firm again – it helps with flakiness to go straight from freezer to 450 degree oven!

I also was trying to substitute yogurt whole-sale for buttermilk. This time, I mixed milk, buttermilk, and just a few bits of vinegar because I now know that buttermilk activates the baking powder/soda and creates the leavening. Science! Basically, invest in buttermilk or use a real substitute, not just something that makes your dough look consistent.

The final change is her method of kneading. she flattens out her dough, cuts it in half, and stacks it on top, then does it again. It effectively makes strata in the dough, which I completely saw when I removed the biscuits after cooking. Even though kneading probably melted some of the butter, it hardened back up when it was in the freezer. It didn’t even waste any time because these biscuits work up so fast that my oven hadn’t had time to get to 450 – they froze while the oven heated up.

My houseguests this weekend said that the biscuits were delicious without anything at all on them, but they also loaded them up with grape jelly or bacon. 🙂 I mean it: if you too are under the biscuit curse, try this recipe!!!

1. S’s Biscuit Recipe (repost)

IMG_3577

Here is the very first article I posted on Recipe in a Bottle, unrevised; I’m intrigued to know if it sounds different from when I first posted it. Feel free to explore early recipes here on the blog where I was finding my footing!

Last night, I had a chicken and biscuit dinner meal. My father-in-law ordered the same dish at the restaurant, and when it arrived, he commented quietly to himself, “a biscuit instead of a bun, that’s a good idea.”

I personally tend to side with anyone who thinks a biscuit instead of anything else is a good thing. I am a fiend for a good biscuit.

A friend of mine grew up in the South watching her mother make biscuits – I visited their home when I was particularly worn down from a crazy job and she made biscuits for me. There was probably something else to the meal, but what I remember is that she didn’t measure anything, didn’t need to, just knew when she’d sifted enough flour in and when the dough was setting up right. It was more like magic than cooking, though to be fair I thought pretty much any dish that turns out consistently good is magical. I planned to take two of the biscuits home for later but I honestly ate them in the car on my way back to the crazy job.

This magical aspect extends to a lot of the recipes I received: some of them had such directions as “Mix first 6 ingredients. Add second 3. Pour last ingredient on top.” Fancy cooking with crazy whisking techniques these were not. In the case of S’s biscuits, there were no directions at all. I knew from the RSVP card that “S’s biscuit recipe is forthcoming,” which was of course intriguing, but even after I received S’s present (an enormous white bowl with a flat bottom, circular biscuit cutters, a pack of Southern biscuit flour, a pastry cutter), I still wasn’t sure about this all-important recipe. So I texted S, intrigued.  He told me the recipe on the back of the biscuit flour is best. He said to use butter and buttermilk, or yogurt if not buttermilk was available. He gave me advice on flour (use Southern flours, self-rising if at all possible. He also told me that the large flat bottom bowl is big enough to make the dough and cut the biscuits right in it – no messy countertops!

Biscuit making sounded like a pleasure with these instructions and tools. My past experience trying to make biscuits was mostly while living in Spain, where most bread is the bubbly, crusty-outside, soft-inside variety. Such bread tasted divine with tomato and olive oil and a tiny bit of salt, but it did make me crave bread that felt like it was only a whisper away from being made entirely of butter. I wanted layers, and melty fluff. What I got, when I made biscuits, was definitely buttery, but never quite measured up. Internet recipes didn’t treat me well, and maybe I was not particularly precise.

It was, however, a pleasure to be precise when making S’s recipe. For one thing, it was simple: I didn’t have buttermilk and I knew I would never use the extra, so I used honey-flavored greek yogurt, a staple in my house. I figured I’d end up sweetening the biscuits, which in this case ended up being delightful. The pastry cutter is a tool that I never wanted to own because it’s so hard to clean, but in the end, I loved it because it does what no other tool does well: gets butter down to pea-sized chunks without kneading or just melting the butter. My hands didn’t even touch the dough until after it was already starting to shape up well. I then pressed the dough into every corner of the flat bottom bowl, and sure enough, the bowl was big enough. Instead of shaping little hamburger-looking balls, I got to slice into them with circular steel, which made the dough yield in a really wonderful, springy way, and made them look like actual biscuits. I baked them up without letting them rise, which was probably an issue, but I didn’t care.

Afterwards, they were what I wanted – I still smoothed them over with more butter and Husband slathered honey on, but we ate the whole batch while watching some superhero movie on a Saturday morning. S was a little stunned when I texted him about half an hour after his original instructions to say the biscuits were delicious. Obviously I will have to try them again and actually let them rise, but it was amazing how much the right tools made cooking a pleasure: I understood now why S always gave me long lectures about the utility of certain cooking tools and ingredients. He was a precise person and I was a kitchen dervish, but I could try on that hat for a recipe or two, if it yielded that kind of carb-and-fat perfection.

Sustainability and Healthy Substitutes: Well, buying ingredients I know I won’t use up is wasteful, so in this case, my substitute served as my sustainability. I don’t think yogurt is inherently better than buttermilk, but given that the greek yogurt we use has a ton of protein in it, I’m sure that packed a little more umph in there alongside the flour… and the butter… Nah, no sustainability or health subs for this one. Just expediency, which is fairly essential with biscuits.

(Pictures will accompany future entries, but this one will have to be a mystery; there is no photographic evidence of the immediately-scarfed batch).

Southern Biscuit (trademarked) Biscuit Recipe

Makes about 12 biscuits

  • 2 cups Southern Biscuit Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar, optional
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, butter, or lard
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, optional topping
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Measure flour into bowl. Stir in sugar if desired. Cut in shortening using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips until clumps are the size of peas.
  3. Add milk or buttermilk and stir just until flour is moistened. For a wetter dough, add additional milk.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness.
  5. Cut biscuits using a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. For softer biscuits, place biscuits on baking sheet so they touch.
  6. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter if desired.

My Great-Grandmother’s Buttermilk Biscuits – Beware the Over-Improvising…

Today is a story of biscuit woe. I’ve been pretending for a while that my biscuits turn out well, because, honestly, the first day they always taste good. But they turn to hockey pucks with great speed after that. My great grandmother’s recipe is no exception. It’s amazing how it was passed down to me: my grandmother’s sister learned it from her father when she was 8 years old to be able to fill in while my great grandmother, H, was ill; she had 13 children during her lifetime, so you could barely blame her for being under the weather! They didn’t have self-rising flour or electricity, so no mixers. Everything was beaten by hand in a wooden bowl.

The recipe is this:

4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons lard (shortening)

1 cup butter milk

Put the sifted flour in the mixing bowl and make a hole in the flour – add the buttermilk in the hole and sprinkle baking soda on the milk and add salt. Add lard and mix well until soft dough forms. Pinch off a ball of dough and shape to 1/2 inch thick large biscuits. Place on greased oven pan so the biscuits touch. Bake in 400 degree oven until a rich brown.

Let me tell you, this was where my substitution nature got the best of me. I hadn’t planned to try this recipe, but E was in town and we wanted to have a nice breakfast, so I made little corner-cuts until I realized my own recipe was unrecognizeable: no buttermilk so I used regular milk, the baking soda was old, the lard had to be subbed with crisco vegetable shortening. All in all, hockey pucks by midday, though our breakfast was delightful.

I need to return to T’s house, my friend who makes biscuits entirely by feel. I need, also, to buy new baking soda, which might solve my problems. More than anything, I’ve got to respect the biscuit recipe: they know what they are doing. It’s baking, after all: a science experiment. Cooking may yield something different and delicious when I improvise, but baking can be pretty unforgiving!

 

1. S’s Biscuit Recipe

IMG_3577Last night, I had a chicken and biscuit dinner meal. My father-in-law ordered the same dish at the restaurant, and when it arrived, he commented quietly to himself, “a biscuit instead of a bun, that’s a good idea.”

I personally tend to side with anyone who thinks a biscuit instead of anything else is a good thing. I am a fiend for a good biscuit.

A friend of mine grew up in the South watching her mother make biscuits – I visited their home when I was particularly worn down from a crazy job and she made biscuits for me. There was probably something else to the meal, but what I remember is that she didn’t measure anything, didn’t need to, just knew when she’d sifted enough flour in and when the dough was setting up right. It was more like magic than cooking, though to be fair I thought pretty much any dish that turns out consistently good is magical. I planned to take two of the biscuits home for later but I honestly ate them in the car on my way back to the crazy job.

This magical aspect extends to a lot of the recipes I received: some of them had such directions as “Mix first 6 ingredients. Add second 3. Pour last ingredient on top.” Fancy cooking with crazy whisking techniques these were not. In the case of S’s biscuits, there were no directions at all. I knew from the RSVP card that “S’s biscuit recipe is forthcoming,” which was of course intriguing, but even after I received S’s present (an enormous white bowl with a flat bottom, circular biscuit cutters, a pack of Southern biscuit flour, a pastry cutter), I still wasn’t sure about this all-important recipe. So I texted S, intrigued.  He told me the recipe on the back of the biscuit flour is best. He said to use butter and buttermilk, or yogurt if not buttermilk was available. He gave me advice on flour (use Southern flours, self-rising if at all possible. He also told me that the large flat bottom bowl is big enough to make the dough and cut the biscuits right in it – no messy countertops!

Biscuit making sounded like a pleasure with these instructions and tools. My past experience trying to make biscuits was mostly while living in Spain, where most bread is the bubbly, crusty-outside, soft-inside variety. Such bread tasted divine with tomato and olive oil and a tiny bit of salt, but it did make me crave bread that felt like it was only a whisper away from being made entirely of butter. I wanted layers, and melty fluff. What I got, when I made biscuits, was definitely buttery, but never quite measured up. Internet recipes didn’t treat me well, and maybe I was not particularly precise.

It was, however, a pleasure to be precise when making S’s recipe. For one thing, it was simple: I didn’t have buttermilk and I knew I would never use the extra, so I used honey-flavored greek yogurt, a staple in my house. I figured I’d end up sweetening the biscuits, which in this case ended up being delightful. The pastry cutter is a tool that I never wanted to own because it’s so hard to clean, but in the end, I loved it because it does what no other tool does well: gets butter down to pea-sized chunks without kneading or just melting the butter. My hands didn’t even touch the dough until after it was already starting to shape up well. I then pressed the dough into every corner of the flat bottom bowl, and sure enough, the bowl was big enough. Instead of shaping little hamburger-looking balls, I got to slice into them with circular steel, which made the dough yield in a really wonderful, springy way, and made them look like actual biscuits. I baked them up without letting them rise, which was probably an issue, but I didn’t care.

Afterwards, they were what I wanted – I still smoothed them over with more butter and Husband slathered honey on, but we ate the whole batch while watching some superhero movie on a Saturday morning. S was a little stunned when I texted him about half an hour after his original instructions to say the biscuits were delicious. Obviously I will have to try them again and actually let them rise, but it was amazing how much the right tools made cooking a pleasure: I understood now why S always gave me long lectures about the utility of certain cooking tools and ingredients. He was a precise person and I was a kitchen dervish, but I could try on that hat for a recipe or two, if it yielded that kind of carb-and-fat perfection.

Sustainability and Healthy Substitutes: Well, buying ingredients I know I won’t use up is wasteful, so in this case, my substitute served as my sustainability. I don’t think yogurt is inherently better than buttermilk, but given that the greek yogurt we use has a ton of protein in it, I’m sure that packed a little more umph in there alongside the flour… and the butter… Nah, no sustainability or health subs for this one. Just expediency, which is fairly essential with biscuits.

(Pictures will accompany future entries, but this one will have to be a mystery; there is no photographic evidence of the immediately-scarfed batch).

Southern Biscuit (trademarked) Biscuit Recipe

Makes about 12 biscuits

  • 2 cups Southern Biscuit Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar, optional
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, butter, or lard
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, optional topping
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Measure flour into bowl. Stir in sugar if desired. Cut in shortening using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips until clumps are the size of peas.
  3. Add milk or buttermilk and stir just until flour is moistened. For a wetter dough, add additional milk.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness.
  5. Cut biscuits using a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. For softer biscuits, place biscuits on baking sheet so they touch.
  6. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter if desired.